Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

We enjoyed a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner with wonderful people at my parents' house in Park City. My mom's one sister and her children and their children plus some neighbors gathered for a suptious feast for 42 that my mom so aptly prepared (with me and Jared and the kids as her helpers). My mom knows how to make everything so lovely and so tasty. And it was wonderful to have time with cousins that I see too seldom.

Here's the day in photos (sorry - forgot my good camera so I just have phone photos...):

I like to take a photo of the kids every Thanksgiving. They apparently don't care for this tradition:

As everyone arrived and the adults did all the final work on the feast, the kids got to work on their "thankful lists" - my mom got cute pumpkins they covered with stickers and wrote what they were thankful for on each sticker. Some kids got really into it and did very long and impressive lists.

Ready to eat:

My mom somehow found enough plates, glasses and sliverware for EVERYONE and made the tables look so very beautiful.

Here's each table - empty then filled:

The adult table:

The teenage girls' table: 

The boys' table: 

The girls' table: 

 The teenage boys' table:

Mmmmm - pie!

With some of my dear cousins (why didn't we think to get a picture with everyone?)

After a great time in Park City, we headed out to Riverton to spend time with Jared's brother and family plus Jared's mom. Always so good to be with them and catch up on everyone's lives over delicious pie. I loved hearing about college from my nieces and remembering those good old days of my own. Ashton totally beat me in "Just Dance" but I beat Eliza so I guess I'm not terrible at it. Love that game.

I'm so glad my kids have such great cousins to look up to:

Then on Friday, we helped my mom with some of her holiday decorating, did some shopping (made a decent dent in our list) and met up with more cousins for a super fun time at an indoor trampoline place (why didn't I take photos???). Then we stopped for one last feast on the way home - at In-and-Out Burger.

So I can remember the kids' cute handwriting and what they wanted to put on the Thankful Tree this year, here are some snapshots of what we got:
Brothers (SO happy that Ashton decided to put that one on - sometimes it's hard to tell if he actually is grateful at all for his brothers), legos and k'nex, basketball

 Not getting sick a lot, primary, trampolines

 Nature, money, laptops

 the color blue, texting, Heavenly Father and Jesus

 cars, stairs, Utah, Canada, people and gas (quite a random selection on one leaf!)

 Christmas, the opportunity to serve (loved seeing this one!), the lights, the napkins and the tables

 Babies, buttifull (beautiful) animals

 Books, food

Ogden, school, trips, Holy Ghost to guide us

Oh, we have so much to be grateful for!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Snapshot of Gratitude

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and lots of Thanksgiving posts and podcasts to create for Power of Moms, I've sure been counting my blessings a lot.

We're starting a new tradition of creating a "snapshot of gratitude" each year (and April and I made this podcast all about it). The snapshot of gratitude involves capturing some of the top things that make me happy and grateful on one paper each year and having my kids do the same (well, they can choose whether to write out their stuff or say it and I'll record it - this way I get to record their voices each year as well as their best friends, favorite foods, favorite memories, favorite places and all that). By doing this every year at Thanksgiving, we'll be heightening the gratitude we all feel plus creating an ongoing "snapshot" of what we love each year that can be a key part of our personal and family history.

Here's the form I made (and you can download your own form here if you want one - could be a nice thing to do before or after Thanksgiving dinner. . . ):

And here's my list for this year (just what came to mind when I took a 1/2 hour to do this - of course I can now think of things that perhaps should have been on the list ahead of what did make the list but that's OK - it's not meant to be totally comprehensive, it's just a "snapshot":

And I have to add that I'm SOOOOO grateful for health given the long hard road I've watched my cousin and his family endure with their sweet daughter Cami's cancer this past few months (and the long hard road they endured a couple years ago when she first got cancer and then thought she'd beat it for good). And I'm SOOOOO grateful for miracles - they were able to locate a super rare bone marrow match for Cami and the stranger whose bone marrow just happened to match Cami's very generously agreed to give her some of his marrow. Cami's body has accepted the marrow and now she's on the beautiful (but long) road to recovery!

Check out this beautiful post Channel 2 did about Cami:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eliza's basketball and dance

It's been so fun to watch Eliza's basketball games this year. She's on a great team with many of her best friends and the coach is one of her best friend's moms. So it's a great situation for her. And this year, she's really coming into her own on basketball. She's feisty and aggressive out there. She goes after that ball with all her heart and is red-in-the-face and totally sweaty by the end of each game. She's getting better at dribbling that ball quickly and effectively down the court and she's made a few baskets even though that's not her strong suit right now (I think that only comes with a lot of practice and somehow the hoop out in the backyard gets overlooked in favor of homework and violin practice...). And she's got grace out there. She moves like a dancer as she flits down the court. It's sort of a fun combination - aggression and prancing.

That blur in the middle is Eliza, speeding down the court:

Here she is just after going for a shot:

Here's Liza with two of her best friends who are on her team (their team is called "Blue Lightening" - see their exciting matching socks):

Here's the team after their first big win (it's been a hard year since their team is all 5th graders and they've been playing against lots of much bigger and more experienced 6th graders, but they've put forth valient efforts!):

Today Eliza went to a Junior Jazz "Hot Shot" basketball contest with her basketball team. And she came home with this!

She won a medal for dribbling, a medal for shooting and got the overall 1st place trophy. This girl gets to go to regionals now. We were all quite pleasantly surprised.

Eliza's also doing a beautiful job in dance this year. She's performed in two major concerts this year and it's a joy to watch her express herself through dance as she gets stronger and learns more and more about how to move her body in lovely ways. Weekend before last, she performed this truly lovely dance where she and the other 5 girls in her class were flitting falling autumn leaves. I think it was the best thing in the whole concert and that Eliza did a fabulous job.

Here's their dress rehearsal - they were even better in the real thing. Eliza's the one in an orange dress who starts off the whole dance (sad I didn't start videoing just a few seconds earlier!)

But here's everyone at the end of the concert.

They danced wtih these beautiful scarves that they made themselves:

It's so fun to have a daughter who is both tough and athletic and graceful and lovely. Sure, she's got her emotional and dramatic moments and sometimes she turns her feistiness in directions where it's not as welcome as it is on the basketball court and sometimes shows her drama at times when it's not as beautiful as on the dance stage. But we're so very grateful for our Eliza.

And here's a "collage" she made of some of her favorite things right now - violin (she gets to play in her first recital in a couple weeks and she's practicing hard!), writing (the dictionary), art, music, photography, and skiiing (her 5th grade "passport" that'll get her into all the ski resorts in Utah this winter - we'll see how many we can hit!).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cream Cheese Apple Dip

My sister Saydi taught me how to make this scrumptious apple dip a few years back and now it's a family favorite every fall. It's so easy and is so much better for you (and better tasting in my opinion) than caramel or other apple/fruit dips.

Mix together in an electric mixer until smooth:
1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese (or neuchautel low-fat cream cheese)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp milk (if you want to make it a bit less stiff but I usually skip this)

Serve with slices of your favorite apples (our favorite varieties are Fuji or Honey Crisp or Gala).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First Snow, Home Improvement, and a Book Signing

Last weekend, we had our first snow. It snowed all morning and part of the afternoon on Saturday and it was so pleasant not to really have anywhere we had to go - we all loved just staying home for a big chunk of the day. We chatted and had a pretty nice time together while we cleaned out closets and gave lots of clothes and toys to the DI (I'd just re-read this article so I was fired up to get this done!). Eliza and I created some abstract art in the afternoon - she's had this paint set and some canvases forever and we just haven't got around to using them. I was so glad to finally have a nice slow day when we could do what she's been wanting to do for a long time - just sit and paint together.

Here's what we came up with (and wow, they sure looked different when they were wet - the colors were much more vibrant!)

(Eliza's painting is on the left, mine is on the right.)

While we painted, the boys went over to a MineCraft competition at the library with some neighbors and had the time of their lives.

Then we finished off the day with a game night, something we haven't done in way too long.

How I love the rare lazy day at home!

The kids were pretty excited about the snow, with visions of skiing and snowboarding dancing in their heads. They all saved up for season passes this year so this'll be the year they really get to ski a lot!

Despite a skiff of snow and some colder temperatures, the kids and all their neighborhood friends are still spending lots of time on the trampoline. Isaac came in from jumping the other day and said, "Mom, I think that trampoline is the best thing we've ever bought. It was totally worth working and waiting." Nice to hear.

Luckily, just before the first real snow, we finished the big fat project of scraping down, sanding, priming and repainting the trim on this house that we could reach (the third floor will have to wait - need a lift for that! And the paint's mostly fine up there for now.) I had three different painters come and look at the project but they never gave me bids and sort of disappeared. Frustrating. The summer wore on and then the fall and the sad peeling paint on the porch windows of this house was just stressing me out. I didn't think the old wood could make it through another winter unprotected without some serious problems.

So on a beautiful fall Saturday three weeks ago, we decided to seize the day and just do as much painting as we could ourselves.

After working three full Saturdays plus a couple hours in the warmest part of the day most afternoons, all the most problematic areas have been scraped, sanded, primed and have at least one coat of top coat. The rest can wait until spring.

The back windows that just had old white paint on them are now painted to match the rest of the house (the windows in the middle and upper story in the picture below) and the basement windows that were boarded up for years and needed serious scraping are now painted to match (some day we'll get that old brick refurbished...).

The porch still needs a little more work - the burgandy color detail trim needs to be done - but the badly peeling paint on all the posts is gone, replaced by good fresh paint. (Wish I'd thought to take a "before" photo because you really can't tell in this photo that we've done very much. You can see that I tried to remove some of the ugly pinkish paint myself there on the right but I didn't get very far - I think we'll need a professional to do that. But again, I've had masonry restoration companies come and they won't give me a bid! And the wood on the floor needs to be refinished but that'll have to wait for springtime...)

And another home-improvement project -
After three years of living in this house and getting stressed out every time anything spills on the counters, worried the moisture will get behind the cabinets and cause rot or something like that given that there was nothing but a bit of sloppy caulk where the wall meets the counter top, we finally got a nice backsplash installed.

It took a long time to find someone to install the tile (I've done tile before but I without the right equipment and expertise, it's a big pain.) I finally found a guy who could do it for a fair price. Plus fix some broken tile and caulking issues in a couple of the showers. Finding people to do work is just plain hard!

I was determined not to get analysis paralysis by looking at the umpteen million backsplash ideas on the internet so I just went to Home Depot and Lowes and picked three options that would look OK with the gray counter tops, cherry cabinets, dark wood trim and yellow paint. Despite my determination not to stress over this, I pored over those three options way too much. But finally we had a family vote and went with the winner.

It was this one - a mix of glass tile and slate that seemed to tie all the colors in the kitchen together nicely - and the subway-style brick pattern gave a nice nod to tilework of the period of our house.

And here's the finished product that we were all pleased with. We decided not to have the tile extend all the way up to the cabinets everywhere because we liked seeing the yellow walls and thought too much tile would make the small kitchen feel too busy and darken it up quite a bit. Plus there's no need for a tile beyond where we have it installed.

 It feels so good to have projects that have been on the list for years finally crossed off!

Last Thursday night was busy and fun. I headed down to SLC for a nice dinner and event right on the set at KSL Studio Five with my friend Allyson (she and I have been on the show a few times). We were able to hear a wonderful speech by the founder of Shabby Apple about seeing needs, responding to needs, working on a shoestring budget, making do and reaching high - all of which really resonated with our work at Power of Moms. Wished we could have stayed for the rest of the evening but had to hurry over to a book signing . . .

It was a pleasure to be with some of the local authors of Deliberate Motherhood again and present some readings and do book signing at one of my very favorite bookstores, The King's English.

My parents were kind enough to show up for a bit at the end. Always so good to see them. I've been to so many of their book signings all my life - fun to reverse roles this time round! What wonderful, supportive parents I've been blessed with.

Here are all the local authors of our book - SUCH great women. I wish we could all be neighbors and chat every day.

And one more thing - weekend before last, Isaac finally had the party we haven't got around to for ages (he never gets birthday parties with friends because we're always at Bear Lake for his birthday and he loves being with cousins but it's nice to have a friend party sometimes too...). He invited 12 kids, half girls, half boys. Only the girls showed up which was fine with Isaac since they're some of his best friends. Too bad the boys missed out! They all had a great time jumping on the trampoline, eating Isaac's favorite snacks (7-layer dip, fresh apple cider, and apples with dip) and playing Reverse Charades. Such a great group. I'm so loving doing these simple parties to get to know my big boys' friends!


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